Friday, April 14, 2006

Factoid Central

Two interesting things that I learned while sitting on my butt watching the Science channel all day yesterday:

1. During part of the year, the Mekong River in Cambodia actually flows backwards. The river floods dramatically each year (up to 10 m), which is a critical part of agriculture in the region. However, so much water flows down the river from headwaters in Tibet that it actually backs up one of the major tributaries and fills up the Tonle Sap lake -- which grows to five times its normal size. It is assumed that this backwards flow allowed stone and building materials to be moved to the site of the Angkor Wat temple.

2. A patrician Roman during the height of the Roman Empire consumed nearly 20 mg of lead every day. Lead was used in cookpots, water storage, in wine, concentrated in many of the food stuffs because of lead in the storage containers; it was in makeup, and generally permeated the environment. Current studies show that the human body can handle 1-2 mg a day without ill effects (only about 5% is ever absorbed), but safely levels are in the micrograms. No wonder they were all insane. (Learned this one from Hot Rocks).

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